DURING THE WORLD SERIES this fall, in between the television advertisements for Budweiser, razor blades and the Aqua Velva man, the Maryland State Bar Association plans to bring viewers a commercial message.
A homeowner in yellow rain gear sits across a small kitchen table from a lawyer wearing a three-piece gray suit. While the homeowner shuffles bowls aroung trying to catch water that is dripping from the leaky ceiling, the lawyer wrings out an official looking piece of paper.
"well, let me look into this," says the lawyer to the homeowner, "but next time, before you sign, see me and we'll get you a contract that holds water."
The 30-second spot is part of a $285,000 "institutional advertising campaign" approved last month, after two years of debate, by the membership of the state bar. The lawyers who will pay $40 apiece to underwrite and campaign, want Maryland to that they are not greedy, that they can be helpful when it comes to buying a home or writing a will, and that they are available -- for a reasonable fee.
The Maryland Bar's move toward institutional advertising -- which means promotion for the profession, not ads for $50 divorces -- began in 1977 when the state bar set up a Committe on Public Awareness.
The committee members had a feeling that Maryland residents didn't think much of lawyers in general -- and they were right.
Lawyers were ranked below nurses, dentists, doctors, teachers and accountants, according to a survey of 600 Maryland residents conducted last year for the Bar by the Baltimore research firms of Hollander, Cohen Associated Inc. Lawyers were listed to cut above business excutives and elected officials -- who came in last.
Most of those surveyed thought that lawyers' fees were too high and few knew they could turn to the Bar Association to help them find a lawyer they could afford. Those who had worked with a lawyer generally were satisfied with the performance, although in general the public's opinion of the profession was not as high. And, the survey found, Maryland likes the idea of lawyer advertising.
"the public seemed to want a great deal of information about lawyers and the law, which they didn't seem to be getting," said John E. Sandbower III, a Baltimore lawyer who was chairman of the Public Awareness Committee.
The solution, which the state bar hopes will satisfy the public and the profession, was to guarantee the lawyers that the commercials would be high-class and low-key while giving Maryland residents basic information about how and when to get a lawyer.
The Baltimore advertising firms of Foster and Green, which brought you the Maryland State Lottery and Kiwi Shoe Polish, was hired by the Bar to put the campaign together. Four commercials will run this year, starting in September. They will deal with lawyer referral services, wills, real estate and general legal problems. Bar groups in 16 other states also pay for institutional advertising.
Viewers will not see these commercials during breaks in the Gong Show because "we're trying to deliver a serious message," said John W. Hawks, who handles the Bar account for Foster and Green. They will be seen on the Today Show, the nightly news and such sports programs as the World Series, the Olympics and the Super Bowl.
Ninety-five percent of the campaign budget will pay for television time to be split between the Baltimore and Washington market, Hawks said. Both the District of Columbia and Virginia Bars declined and invitation to join in the campaign but "the door's still open," Hawks said.
The remaining 5 percent of the budget will be spent on radio spots to be aired at Maryland's resort areas such as Ocean City and Annapolis, Hawks said. The subject is wills.
Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, far from letting up on his complaints about the competency of lawyers in the countroom, has prosposed what he terms a direct solution to the problem. That would be for the American Bar Association to change its accreditation standards and establish what law school must do about training in trial techniques for students who want it.
In a speech to the fourth Circuit Judicial Conference on Friday at the Homestead, Burger said the law schools "pobably . . . have the right" to set guidelines to "identify the aptitude of such applicants for trial advocacy." Burger said at an ABA meeting in February 1978 that half the country's trial lawyers are incompetent.
An ABA task force, set up a year ago after Burger said that too many lawyers are getting their courtroom experience on the job at the expense of their clients, had recommended against changes in the standards.Instead, the task force suggested changes in course and instruction but rather then regulation. In most states, students must graduate from an ABA accredited law school before they can take the bar examination.
All but three of the 32 law clerks to the U.S. Supreme Court who are about to finish their one-year terms with the justices have settled on new jobs. Twenty clerks will enter private law practice -- nine with Washington law firms -- and five will teach at Stanford, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Duke and Virginia law schools. The NCAA Legal Defense Fund has hired one clerk and the Department of Defense, the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Council of Economic Adversers get three others.
OBITER: John H. Pickering in now the president of the D.C. Bar, and Stephen J. Pollack was chosen president-elect. Ann Kernan Macrory was elected secretary, Sara-Ann Determan treasurer and Marna S. Tucker was elected to the ABA House of Delegates.
James J. Bierbower and Robert S. Bennett both were elected to the board of governors on petition rather than through the bar nominating committee. Judith Areen, Lois J. Shiffer and Alan B. Morrison also were elected to serve three-year terms on the board . . . J. Clay Smith Jr. has been elected to a second term as president of the Washington Bar Association, a voluntary organization for black lawyers . . . J. Joseph Barse is now president of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia and John Jude O'Donnell was named president-elect of the organization, which is voluntary organiization for the lawyers who pratice in Washington.